Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease are two separate diseases that both demand the loss of memory. Dementia is an overall term that describes a group of symptoms associated with a decline in memory and thinking skills. While Alzheimer’s Disease is a type of dementia that causes problems with memory, thinking, and behavior.
Both Dementia and Alzheimer’s progress differently within each person, while some people experience symptoms slowly and over a number of years, other experience symptoms more aggressively. While neither disease is a diagnosis you want to receive from your doctor, there are ways to handle it and support you and your family will need in the years to follow a diagnosis such as this.
Family, friends and caregivers may experience grief or the feeling of loss during this period. They may feel their loved one is slowly slipping away from them and experience a number of different emotions. The most common stages of grieving include: denial, anger, guilt, sadness and acceptance.
All of these feelings will most likely hit you at different times and perhaps not even in that order. It’s okay to go through these emotions as you process what is happening to your loved one. You aren’t alone. Worldwide, 50 million people are living with Alzheimer’s and other dementias.
There are a number of ways to cope with these feelings and ways to move forward. One of the first things you have to do is face your emotions, both positive and negative. Try to identify what your feeling and accept that it’s okay to feel that way especially since you may feel that way on more than one occasion and it may hit you at unexpected times. Be prepared to feel these emotions at various times. You may be at the grocery store and see your loved one’s favorite brand of cookies, or at a restaurant and read your loved one’s favorite dish on the menu. Your memories are still very real and vibrant even though your loved ones are fading. You will have a surge of emotions since your loved one has made an impact on your life and holds a tender place in your heart. Cherish the sweet moments that remind you of your loved one.
Don’t forget there are other people experiencing the same sense of loss as you may be feeling. Reach out to your friends and family. No one expects you to go through this on your own. There are a number of different support groups across the country that would love to give support, listen to your experience, and offer guidance.
Lastly, don’t forget to take care of yourself. The process of grieving a loved one with Dementia or Alzheimer’s is taxing. Do something you enjoy doing that’s good for your mind, body and soul. Take a moment for yourself so you can come back feeling refreshed and ready to be a better version of you.